US studio giant Disney held a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday to announce a newly-signed deal in a program to expand operations in Indochina, including Vietnam.

Disney recently signed a licensing agreement with East Media Holdings Inc. (EMHI) to sell toys, apparel and other consumer products in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

EMHI will be Disney’s official partner to license, conduct, exploit and use images and brands of Walt Disney in the Indochina.

A Disney representative flew to HCMC Tuesday, together with the company’s famous ambassadors – Mickey and Minnie.

In related news, Financial Times earlier this month reported Disney was expanding its investments in Vietnam as part of a drive to generate new growth from its international businesses.

The media group, which already has cable channels in Vietnam, had struck an agreement to distribute films there, including the feature film Cars, a much-anticipated animated production from its Pixar division.

The investment reflects the company’s intention to focus on Vietnam, where a rapidly growing economy offers the potential of greater leisure spending.

Andy Bird, president of Disney Consumer Products, said the company was “encouraged” by its growth in China but also stressed the importance of a host of smaller economies in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

“If you’re going to become a truly global company, it’s important that you focus on countries like Vietnam,” Financial Times quoted Bird as saying.

He also suggested that Disney would take a long-term approach in Vietnam, seeking to build relationships with retailers and deepen awareness of its characters so that it could capitalize as the country’s economy and technology infrastructure develop.

In 2005, Disney generated US$1.4 billion in revenues in Asia compared with $24.8 billion in the US and Canada, and $5.2 billion in Europe.

Reported by Diep Duc Minh – Translated by Thu Thuy